Growing Up in Multiple Families: Children’s Perceptions and Definitions of Post-Divorce Families

Session : Workshop 2-2: Social and Cultural Factors

  • Time : 2:30 pm PDT To 4:15 pm PDT on
  • Venue : Growing Up in Multiple Families: Children’s Perceptions and Definitions of Post-Divorce Families

Full Abstract

Currently, children grow up in a variety of family constellations, especially after parental separation. So, old definitions of family like biological ties, location or time might not be sufficient to define those post-divorce families from children's point of view. Moreover, previous research has indicated that parental separation can lead to difficulties of defining family boundaries and feelings of boundary ambiguity with children. As such, we would like to investigate how children define their family, given all family transitions they experienced starting from the parental separation. Therefore, we conducted qualitative in-depth interviews combined with creative methods (i.e. children's drawings) of 39 children (8-18 years old) of separated parents (16 girls, 23 boys) 21 children reside in joint physical custody, 15 children stay with a residential mother and 3 children stay with a residential father. Results reveal the advantages (e.g. more stuff, new friends) and disadvantages (e.g. missing parent, moving stuff) of growing up in two households as well as ways to make this more convenient (i.e. flexibility, proximity & no conflict) according to children. Moreover, the drawings clearly indicate that children's views on their post-divorce family go beyond the classic idea of family as biological family. Next to drawing their biological parents and siblings, children also drew their stepparents, stepsiblings, halfsiblings, grandparents and even pets. Furthermore, almost all children drew all family members as one group instead different family groups in separate houses. This indicates that, although parents, researchers and social stakeholders may consider separated families as two different families, children still perceive this as one family: a family that goes beyond the borders of location, time and biological ties.